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Demonstration of the new seatbelt  (Source: Detroit Free Press)
First generation of Ford's inflatable seat belt could help save lives

U.S. automaker Ford announced it will introduce a new seatbelt airbag that will first find its way into automobiles starting with the 2011 Ford Explorer SUV.

The Ford system operates by placing a small cylinder of cold compressed gas that sits underneath the rear seats, with an inflatable bag located in the seatbelts.  After a vehicle impact occurs, this new system is designed to spread the force of impact over more parts of the human body, which helps reduce the amount of impact felt by the human chest.

Although airbags are now common safety devices in all modern vehicles, Ford is poised to become the first automaker to introduce the inflatable rear seatbelts -- they'll launch next fall, when the 2011 Explorer is made available.

"It's hard to know for sure ahead of time, but this airbag has tremendous benefit by increasing the surface area (of the seat belt), and that allows them to restrain the torso better on a frail body," University of Michigan trauma surgeon Dr. Stewart Wang told The Detroit News.  "I think that the potential benefits are quite substantial."

As automakers look for new ways to attract car buyers, Ford has been quick to introduce in-car technology and additional features unavailable in some baseline and midrange vehicles from competing companies.

The new optional safety device will eventually be available for all Ford vehicles, but will have an additional cost auto buyers must pay.

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Getting closer
By webstorm1 on 11/6/2009 10:00:05 AM , Rating: 4
I'm still waiting for foam. "What the hell happened? All of a sudden, this car turned into a cannoli!"

It's nice to hear something positive out of Detroit for a change. Does this mean the airbag is not needed in these models? This could be added to all 4 seats also.

RE: Getting closer
By mdogs444 on 11/6/2009 10:03:31 AM , Rating: 3
This does not replace the need for standard front airbags which are there to protect your head from impact with the dash, steering wheel, and/or well as the side airbags to protect you from the windows/doors.

These airbags are meant to be safer because they reduce the amount of stress your body receives from the actual belt being strapped across your body. Many people receive very serious injuries from standard belts due to the force and speed of the head on crash, or from being hit from being when stopped.

However, as with every other additional safety and technology will come with added weight and cost to the vehicle.

RE: Getting closer
By FITCamaro on 11/6/2009 10:12:14 AM , Rating: 3
Personally I'd prefer this in the front to a standard airbag coming out of the dash or steering wheel. Regular airbags can hurt as much as help. Obviously still used in conjunction with side impact bags if the car has them.

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